Building new transmission lines indicates support for the development of a national grid, but doing so would ultimately stifle entrepreneurship and innovation, a campaign focused on the creation of a “perfect” consumer-focused electric energy system has warned.

The Galvin Electricity Institute, which was launched after the East Coast blackout of 2003 by former Motorola CEO Robert W. Galvin, issued its caveat in response to President Obama’s Feb. 24 address to Congress. It praised Obama for urging legislators to prioritize smart grid modernization and energy efficiency programs but said building new transmission lines was only part of the equation.

“Contrary to the position taken by national grid advocates, renewable energy can be integrated into local power distribution grids that are closer to the end-user, are able to reinforce and strengthen the bulk power grid, and ultimately reduce the waste created when more power is transported over extended transmission lines,” it said in a statement.

It called on the administration to instead support federal mandates that “break apart the monopoly control state regulators and utilities have” over local power distribution services and infrastructure.

“This will enable consumers and municipalities to engage private sector entrepreneurs in the development of local, smart, green microgrids nationwide. These microgrids are necessary to strengthen the bulk power system and bring the nation’s electricity supply into the 21st century, providing a confident basis for a sustainable energy and economic future in the U.S,” it said.

“In his speech … President Obama harkened back to a time when consumers, small businesses and entrepreneurs were able to rebuild the economic foundation of our country,” said Kurt Yeager, executive director of the Galvin Electricity Initiative.

“Today, these same consumers and entrepreneurs have an important role to play in the revitalization of our power system and our economy. However, we need the federal government to ensure that opportunities for innovation exist. By directing stimulus funding for smart grid demonstration projects that focus on developing local mini-power systems, we will create an opportunity to harness entrepreneurial innovation in ways that build the economy and improve power distribution to the ultimate benefit of all citizens.”

Instead of new transmission lines, real economic opportunities in grid modernization can be most quickly and effectively achieved by installing smart grid technology that improves local energy distribution, the institute said. One way on doing this would be to invest mostly in high-voltage transmission projects. This “would move communities away from economic recovery and toward a more centralized power system that not only gives greater control to the federal government, at the ultimate expense of all citizens, but also squashes entrepreneurship and innovation.”

The institute’s values are reflected in a business and technological blueprint it developed with input from leading electricity experts. “The Perfect Power System“(PDF) also pushes for the establishment of truly competitive retail markets for electricity services; to enable municipalities to access and make investments in the grid infrastructure and within their jurisdiction; and to give utilities incentives to adopt technologies that promote reliability, quality, and increased efficiency.

Source: Galvin Electricity Institute